Not My Cup of Tea

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British people don’t joke when it comes to tea. Watching English movies as a kid, I knew that they liked tea, but I didn’t know how ingrained tea is in their culture until I studied abroad in London. I had an internship at a boutique PR agency where my colleagues drank 6-8 cups of tea a day. There was a whole etiquette that went with drinking tea. The most stressful part about my first day at my internship wasn’t keeping up with all of the training that I was receiving; it was learning how everyone interacted when it came to tea. My first day I quickly learned that it is good manners to ask the entire office if they would like a cup of tea when you feel the urge to make one for yourself. It was a small company, and the entire top floor was all women. The space was also completely open, there were no cubicles separating us. The office had three large tables, one for each different department and then a large desk for the founder of the company. Everything and everyone was out in the open and exposed. I worked in the Beauty department, which was comprised of two other interns and two full-time employees. Since there were only about 15 of us in total, it was expected that you extend the tea offer to the entire office, not just your own department.

On my first day my boss, the head of the Beauty department, offered to make me a cup of tea, which I thought was so cool of her since she’s so much higher than me in rank. I quickly realized why English people love tea so much, it tastes so much better over there! I wanted to make a good impression on my first day so when I was craving my second cup of tea, I did what I had been observing everyone do the entire day, I extended the offer to the entire office. Normally I’d noticed roughly three people request a cup of tea when someone extended the offer since it was made roughly every half hour. However when I extended the offer, eight people took me up on it and requested a cup of tea. Eight. I was freaking out. I didn’t know how any of these people took their teas and honestly since I wasn’t an avid tea-drinker myself, I didn’t really know how to make an excellent cup of tea. Trust me, it’s an art for them. I went as low as taking out a piece of paper and pen to write down how each person takes her tea since I’d just met them all that day. My boss made it clear that she was the pickiest of them all. She said, “I want milk, but not too much, just a splash, because I hate it when it’s too milky.” I was terrified of failing.

Making tea is something simple enough that any competent person should be able to do. However, making tea at Starbucks where all I do is throw a teabag in a cup and add hot water is totally different from the way people make their tea in the UK. I tried the best that I could, but I’m pretty sure my boss hated the tea I made her on my first day, because I noticed that she barely touched it. However, when you get it just right, you earn yourself a lot of praise. I’m not joking when I say I watched all of my co-workers to pick up on their tea habits so I knew how often they drank tea, what they said when they were going to make themselves a cup of tea and how each person liked to take her tea. This whole tea culture was completely foreign to me. Although, I assimilated quickly, because the tea over there was delicious. It didn’t take long for me to get to their level of drinking at least six cups a day.

One day however, when I thought I’d already fully adapted to the tea culture, I was in the kitchen cleaning up the plates I’d used for lunch. I had an urge for a cup of tea. It seemed silly to go back to the office area and announce that I was about to make myself a cup of tea and ask if anyone wanted one, since I was already in the kitchen. I made myself the tea and walked back to my computer, which is literally right next to my supervisor’s computer. She immediately saw my cup of tea and scoffed, “I see you made yourself a cup of tea and didn’t offer to make me one. I ALWAYS offer!” I was speechless. She literally called me out in front of everyone for not offering to make her a cup of tea on this one occasion. My blood boiled. I couldn’t talk back to her, because she was my boss, but seriously? I know how diligent I’ve been with asking the entire office if they wanted a cup of tea, since it was such a foreign custom that I had to consciously make the effort to integrate well. This was the first time that I hadn’t offered everyone a cup of tea while I made myself one, because I was literally already in the kitchen when I got the craving. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. I was wrong. I bit my tongue to avoid saying anything I’d regret, and simply apologized to her for not making her a cup of tea. What else was there to say?

I wasn’t the only person my boss called out for having bad “tea etiquette.” A few weeks later she yelled at another intern for the same thing, but the intern actually talked back and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I always offer to make you tea!” My supervisor got so angry that she started yelling at the intern and the CEO who sits roughly five feet away from us intervened and told my supervisor, “Enough is enough, back off with the whole tea thing.” My boss quickly shut up after that. Although, it still baffles me how she could get so angry over the rare occurrence of not being offered to a cup of tea. At the end of the day, she has two hands and two feet that work perfectly, and the kitchen is about ten feet away. Make your own damn tea!

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Breaking News

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The way my family in Ecuador live life is completely different from the way I live my life here. I’ve been blessed with opportunities and possibilities that most of my cousins will unfortunately most likely never have. Going to Ecuador every two years to visit my family has always been a surreal experience for me. It’s like a different world. When I was younger, I used to wish that I lived in Ecuador rather than the United States. I would have been closer to my family, spoken Spanish perfectly, and at the time I thought that I’d be happier. Life in Ecuador just seemed simpler. My family didn’t have the majority of the luxuries that I grew up with thinking were necessities, so for entertainment my family just talked to each other. Although, my most recent trip to Ecuador showed me that they don’t always talk about everything.

I was 19 years old the last time I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador with my mother. For the first time, I saw a glimpse beyond all of Ecuador’s natural beauty and the idea of my family being completely open with one another. Every family has its secrets, including mine. I guess I just didn’t expect the amount of secrets that I discovered on this trip. One lighthearted story of this reality check happened with my Uncle Oswaldo, my mother’s brother. Him and I have always been close in the sense that he has always really respected me for caring about my education and going to college. It was a big deal for my family in Ecuador; I’m going to be the first woman in three generations to graduate from college.

When my mother and I go to Ecuador we bring a suitcase solely dedicated to presents. We have a very large family who we haven’t seen in years, which equates to an insane amount of gifts. So when my aunts and cousins were trying on all of the cute clothes we’d brought them, I heard my aunt (Oswaldo’s wife) say that she couldn’t fit into the clothes due to the baby. I immediately turned my head and asked her if she was pregnant, because I love babies and that’s exciting news! She had a hesitant pause before she reluctantly confirmed that she was in fact pregnant. I should’ve known then that something was weird.

The next day, my mother, my Uncle Oswaldo, and I went to the bank. My mother went to go speak to an employee and while my uncle and I waited for her, I remembered the news about him expecting a third child. I excitedly congratulated him, wanting to hear the details about the gender and what names he was considering. He looked at me like I had three heads. Apparently, no one had told him the news yet. He immediately said, “What are you talking about? I’m definitely not having a third baby! Your aunt and I aren’t ready for another child yet! No, no and no!” All I could think was, “f***…”

When my mother came back, my uncle went to go talk to an employee about his own bank account. I pulled my mother aside and explained to her the situation. I definitely knew he was going to have a third baby because the baby momma had confirmed it herself. I’d already let it slip so I was afraid that if I didn’t break it to my uncle now, then when he eventually did find out he would remember this moment and realize that I knew the whole time and didn’t say anything! My mom is pretty much a get to the point type of person so she said she would just tell him herself.

Once we walk out of the bank, my mom just nonchalantly puts an arm around her brother and said, “Congratulations on your third baby Oswaldo! Your wife told us the exciting news yesterday!” He almost died from shock. My mom had to repeat it a couple of times before it really sank in for him. Needless to say, he was livid and rightly so. I’m pretty sure he was one of the last people in the family to find out! He mumbled a lot about how he needed to go home and talk to his wife.. I’m sure the talk wasn’t pleasant. My mother, my uncle and I laugh about this moment now, and I have a beautiful baby cousin that’s been added to the family, but my aunt definitely gave me a lot of dirty looks for the remainder of my trip. I hope she learned a good lesson though, any life-changing news that affects her and my uncle…he should probably be the first to know.

Word Vomit

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I’ll admit I have a tendency to say things without thinking, but doesn’t everyone? Personally, I’ve found that that the only time I give serious thought in how I want to express myself is when I’m in a debate with someone and not angry yet. Otherwise, words normally just spew out, and I simply hope that they make sense.

My first week of class during my spring semester of sophomore year, I expressed myself terribly to my new professor. It was my introduction course to public relations; the course that made me realize I wanted to pursue PR as a career. The professor started off the first few lectures by asking the class of around 150 students what we thought PR was.

I like sitting in the first few rows in class. It helps me stay engaged, I can hear the professor better, and I gain more confidence to speak because I can’t see everyone behind me. By the fourth lecture when my professor asked us what we thought PR was, I thought to myself, “I’m smart; I have thoughts! I can contribute to this conversation!” in order to mentally prepare myself to speak in front of 150 peers. After my little mental pep talk, I was ready, and I raised my hand. The professor picked me, and I knew what interesting point I wanted to make about the PR industry. I wanted to point out how now word-of-mouth is viral. People don’t trust companies when they say they’re the best. People trust people. This is why people write recommendations for everything now, and that’s what drives people’s decisions.

I guess subconsciously I had been really bothered by a bad joke that the professor kept making each lecture. He would joke about how he was “the best looking professor” at our college constantly. The first time he said it, it was funny. The fifth time he said it I found it annoying. I have no idea why I said what I said, because it wasn’t even on my mind when I was planning my comment.

When he picked me, I gave a brief explanation about how this word-of-mouth process has become viral and than I said, “For example, I’m more likely to believe that you’re an attractive professor if I saw it on RateMyProfessor.com and you had a red chili pepper featured, than if you keep telling me yourself that you’re attractive.” Word vomit. I couldn’t believe I was saying this as I said it. I didn’t even know where it came from! I was mortified for the both of us.

The professor was taken aback, but handled the comment with grace. First, he complimented me on making a good observation on how the industry is changing, and then he said something that rightfully guilt-tripped me for saying that comment. He said, “As for the whole good-looking teacher thing, I joke about that because it’s actually my biggest insecurity.”

This is why people, including me, should really thoroughly think before we speak. I decided to go to his office hours and personally apologize and luckily he was actually a really cool guy! Sometimes the things I say make me want to smack myself in the head, but I also hear other people speak and take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in saying stupid things sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it makes me feel better.

The Non-Magic School Bus

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Riding the bus to school traumatized me. I somehow managed to humiliate myself so badly twice in one semester my sophomore year that I simply refused to ride the bus afterwards and opted to walk home.

I always hated my backpack. It covered half of my body, looked ugly and in my opinion is going to be the cause of future back problems with the 50 lbs. worth of books that I had to take home every night. And it gave me a humiliating experience to boot. I was wearing a cute denim skirt and a short-sleeved button down shirt, because once I got over my emo phase, I felt the need to dress like a young professional. My English teacher complimented me more on my fashion choices than anyone my age ever did. I also opted to be the only person in my entire high school who insisted on wearing high heels to school every single day. I’m short; it’s an insecurity of mine, so high heels were the solution to my problem. People thought it was weird. Last year, my best friend forced me to go out on a double date with her boyfriend and one of his friends. This friend lived in my neighborhood in elementary school; we were playmates, but he didn’t remember any of that. When he saw me, the first thing he said was, “Oh you’re the girl who always used to wear high heels to school!”

Anyway, with my cute little outfit I walked from the back of the bus to the front to exit and I could hear chuckles following me. I got off the bus, and as I started walking towards my house, I readjusted my backpack. It turns out my skirt got pulled up by my backpack strap so everyone on the bus just got themselves a free show. That’s when I started walking home from school.

A couple of months later, it’s pouring rain. I was wearing a dress again, as I often do, and I wasn’t in the proper attire to handle the storm so I decided to take the bus home. I was young and stupid so I made my two best friends walk with me to the bus and prep me for getting on. I hadn’t seen anyone since I let them see a lot of me. I know, I was/am dramatic. I’m finally ready to board the bus and as I took the first step, I tripped and fell and landed in a puddle. This is my life. My friends died from laughter…as did the rest of the bus, again. I was mortified, again. I refused to take the bus after that fall. I literally just walked (more like ran) away and made my older brother pick me up. High school was a rough time in my life that I normally just like to block from my memory.

Slumming it at the Spa

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I have no idea why my mother listens to me. I mean she is my bestie, but when it comes to make it or break it decisions, I’d trust her judgment over mine any day. She apparently feels the opposite.

When I was roughly 12-years-old, my mom won a raffle to get two free facials at a spa. It was really exciting for us, because neither one of us had ever been to a spa in our lives. The idea of being pampered and primped to perfection sounded heavenly.

We arrived at the spa ready for our to have green goo rubbed on our faces. The woman at the front desk directed us to the changing rooms, handed us 2 towels and then told us to come out once we were ready. My mom and I were completely alone in the changing room, but we were confused. My mom thought that we were meant to completely undress and wrap the towels around our bodies. I didn’t understand why we would need to take off all of our clothes and only wear a towel if we were just getting a facial. I suggested that the towel was supposed to be wrapped around our heads to get our hair out of the way. We argued about what we were supposed to do with the towels for like five minutes. Then, we waited roughly 10 minutes to see if anyone else would come in so that we could copy whatever they were going to do with the towel. No one came in.

Logically, my theory made more sense. I mean why would we have to get naked for a facial? My mom finally conceded and went along with my idea. We wrapped the towels around our heads and walked back out to the reception area with confidence. I was wrong.

As I see other people waiting for their appointments, the expressions on their faces was enough for me to know that we did not do this right. The reception lady walked over to us and whispered, “The towel is actually meant to go around your body. Also, you don’t need to come back to the waiting room area, the women who will be doing your facials will come and get you from the changing room. Needless to say, we were both mortified.

My mom was livid. Angry at me for being wrong and angry at herself for listening to an annoying know-it-all 12-year-old. Once we corrected our use of the towels, we both got our facials, which ended up leaving me with dry, red skin because I have extremely sensitive skin that apparently just wasn’t ready to be preened. It was still a fun experience and I got to learn “the protocol” for when one is at a spa.

The Barista Fantasy

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According to my cousin, being a barista is like this generation’s sexy librarian fantasy. At first I was skeptical, because as a barista myself I don’t really understand what could possibly be attractive about my hideous black polo and huge green apron that makes me look like a 12-year-old boy. Whatever works for you I guess. I can believe her comment though, because I think working at Starbucks is the place where I’ve been asked out the most in my life. I don’t really know what to think about that, because honestly I look my worst when I’m working. I’m too lazy to put on my contacts so I’ve got my own trendy hipster glasses that scream “Hello, I’m a hipster,” and like I said the uniform doesn’t do me any favors. Yet, it’s really is the main place where I get asked out the most. It’s so odd.

This past summer I decided to stay in Boston for an internship instead of going back home. The internship was unpaid, as so many of them are unfortunately so I kept up my job at Starbucks to pay for, you know, my survival. Working 70-hour workweeks was miserable. However, the two redeeming factors of working at Starbucks that summer were that I loved my co-workers and I got a very huge self-esteem boost from getting asked out several times in that three month time period. It got to the point where my co-workers would give me crap for being too flirty. Apparently to them, friendly=flirty.

The oddest experience with a customer asking me out actually came from a professor! He was at least 15 years older than me, and a regular at Starbucks, so I was used to seeing him every shift I worked. Once I can acknowledge with a customer that we are familiar faces, I get friendlier. Instead of just saying “Hi, what can I get for you today?” I’m bold to ask how they are doing and genuinely mean it. So I was on that level with this guy. One day when we had just closed at 9 p.m., he came by the store, but we’d already locked our doors to start cleaning. We made eye contact, and I tried to signal that we’d already closed. He kept knocking on the glass door. My co-worker goes over to open the door to say that we’ve already closed, but he looks over her shoulder at me and says, “I was hoping to talk to you. How long does it normally take you guys to close the store?” It takes an hour. We close at 9 p.m., but employees don’t leave until 10 p.m. because we have to leave everything ready for the morning. He said he’d wait. He waited an hour in the RAIN at night to speak to me. I could guess what was coming.

I cleaned as slow as possible, and for the first time I experienced not wanting to leave Starbucks. Once I go outside, he instantly approached me and tried to make small talk. It’s raining, and I’d just worked a long shift so I was not in the mood to dilly-dally. I give curt responses until he decided to get to the point and ask me to dinner. I went with the classic, “I’m seeing someone” excuse. I don’t like being mean when someone has mustered up the courage to approach me and ask me out so that’s my go-to excuse. Sometimes when I use it, it’s actually true… most of the time it’s not. He looked disappointed but took it with grace, and then continued to come into Starbucks on a normal basis so that awkwardness could continue for a while. Yay…

My favorite interaction with a customer was a day when my normal 12-hour shift that I worked on Saturdays became a 16-hour shift, because a co-worker called in sick at the last minute. I was out of it. Like barely functional due to exhaustion and hunger. My lack of consciousness was even more difficult to hide, because business was slow so there was nothing for me to do but stand behind the bar and concentrate on not falling asleep. Customers noticed too. One woman even had the audacity to say to me, “You look like you need to get it together.” You can always rely on people to make you feel like worse when you already feel like shit. However, out of nowhere, when I had my head lying on the computer screen, a guy walked up to me and said the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in my life. He just came up and said, “You know I’m really sorry you have to be here right now. You seem too smart and too beautiful to deserve to be stuck here on such a nice day and I hope you’re able to get out of work soon.” I barely had time to register what was happening before he ended and left. He didn’t ask me out or ever come back. He just said kind words without asking for anything in return.

However, my most priceless conversation about dating customers actually happened with a fellow female co-worker who was a friend. Another customer had just asked me out that day so my co-workers were playfully teasing me about it and updating her on the gossip with the whole occurrence. However, as I was sharing my take on the whole situation, she decided to share her honest opinion of me. She said, “I can’t believe another guy asked you out. I just don’t get the appeal.” This girl just called me ugly to my face. My jaw dropped. I was torn between calling her out on her rudeness, or laughing it off and moving on. I detest drama so I opted for the latter. I’d rather not stoop to her level of rudeness by being just as nasty. I just gave a small smile and went back to my job.

I don’t know what it is about baristas that could possibly be so enticing to people. I make coffee, and then I serve it to people. One of my co-workers has even started developing carpal tunnel from working at our Starbucks. There’s nothing attractive about my job description. However, my interactions with customers definitely keep the job interesting and worthwhile for me!

Bursting

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My emotions drive me. I’ve always considered myself an emotional person, but I’m still shocked sometimes by how much they control my actions. Most of the time, I guess I’m in a “neutral” state, but when I’m happy I’m elated and when I’m angry all I can see is red. In recent years, my emotions have started to frighten me, as they seemed to have intensified, which I didn’t even know was possible. Overall, I like to consider myself a calm person who doesn’t anger easily, but when I do get angry…it’s a scary sight.

I joined high school on the newspaper staff my sophomore year. I loved it. Brainstorming story ideas, writing, and being Arts & Entertainment editor was such a rewarding experience for me. However, the newspaper teacher “Mr. Allen” lacked the ability to manage a class that was impossible to be as structured as his usual English classes. We only published an issue once a month, which left some free time for everyone due to a lack of structure. I never cared; I used my extra free time to do my homework so that I’d have more TV watching time.

My first year on the staff, I thought Mr. Allen was the coolest teacher ever. He cursed in front of us without reservation, let us go days without doing anything productive for the newspaper and just gave us complete freedom with our story ideas as long as we produced a paper each month.

My second year when I was a junior, I grew to loathe him. He seemed to have grown weary of us. One day he’d be starting a game in our classroom where people had to bet on which teams would win during March Madness, and the next he’d have an outburst where he cursed at all of us telling us how lazy and useless we were. Mr. Allen enjoyed humiliating people when they got on his bad side. I remember once during March Madness literally the entire class was crowded in front of this TV that we had in our classroom for an unknown reason watching the game. I hate watching sports unless it’s the World Cup. So I was in the corner of the room by one of the computers doing my homework for that day. Mr. Allen walked into the classroom and passed the entire class watching the basketball game. He walked straight over to me and as he loomed over me said, “So I guess you’re not planning on doing anything productive for the paper today are you?” I was speechless. Apparently, it’s wrong if I use my free time as a study period, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use the time to watch a basketball game, because he didn’t say anything to the rest of the students who were clearly not working on the newspaper as they were too mesmerized by the television. After this instance, I knew Mr. Allen disliked me as much as I disliked him. However, he had the power and opportunity to humiliate me whenever he pleased, me as a 16-year-old student in a public high school stood no chance in being supported if we ever had a real altercation. Unfortunately, this reality didn’t stop me from causing a fight anyway.

After two years of dealing with Mr. Allen’s inappropriate behavior, one day I snapped. It happened so suddenly I couldn’t have prevented it even if I wanted to. Mr. Allen was yelling at this girl in front of the whole class for not doing a certain task he’d asked her to complete. However, his snarky comments weren’t meant as constructive criticism, they were meant to demean her. As he started walking away from her he passed me and I mumbled, “You know, you don’t have to be so mean.” It just came out. I didn’t realize I was saying something until I’d already said it. He stopped. He turned toward me and just stared with such disbelief that he wasn’t sure if I’d actually said something so he asked, “What did you say?” I knew he heard me. I couldn’t take the comment back now, I just had to commit to it. So I repeated with a bit more confidence, “You don’t have to be so mean to her.” Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared. My entire body was shaking from anxiety and anger that had built up over time.

Aware of everyone’s attention to us, Mr. Allen decided to avoid the confrontation by saying threateningly, “You and I need to have a talk sometime about this, but I’m too tired right now.” Then I experienced word vomit. I instantly responded, “You go get your rest then.” Needless to say, Mr. Allen lost it after that comment. He kicked me out of the classroom and yelled as I was walking out, “Anyone want to be the new A&E Editor?” I was shocked at myself and at him. I had never in my life been kicked out of a classroom. I didn’t even know where I was supposed to go! Did kicking me out mean that I’m supposed to go to the Principal’s office or am I just supposed to literally stand outside of the classroom? The second I left the room and closed the door I started bawling.

I opted to go the cafeteria, because it was a lunch period and I had friends who would be there to calm me down. I walked in to the cafeteria with my tear-strained red face and puffy eyes in search for my friends, but was stopped by the police officer and a teacher who were supervising. They immediately demand to know what happened and since it’s still raw, I blubbered the whole instance upon command. I’m then escorted to the Assistant Principal’s office where I’m demanded to repeat the story. As I’m repeating what happened to the Assistant Principal, she looks up my file and with a look of surprise remarked, “You’re in all Honors and AP classes.” Once she had skimmed my file and I guess determined I wasn’t a criminal in the making, she gave me her full attention. However, at that moment I couldn’t stop thinking how the only reason she changed from harsh and unsympathetic to understanding and kind was the fact that I had good grades and was in advanced classes. To me, that was ridiculous. If I were in this same situation where I’m bawling and a mess in front of her, I’d have no credibility in her eyes as a normal student who gets average grades. She even laughed when I told her my final retort to Mr. Allen that got me kicked out!

After I vented about the entire experience, the Assistant Principal said she’d talk to Mr. Allen, and schedule a meeting for the three of us for him and I to clear the air. This sounded pointless and not enough to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, that’s the way it was “handled.” He gave an insincere apology, and then I followed suit. He gave me back my position as A&E editor, and we both had to continue to tolerate each other for the rest of the school year. It was miserable.